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In his seven years producing as Varien, Nick Kaelar has consistently surpassed genre constructs and proven himself a true mastermind of the electronic music realm. Having always fostered an affinity for music and composing, Kaelar made a name for himself with notable works such as his Skrillex orchestral suite and innovative originals like “Valkyrie” with Laura Brehm and “Moonlight” with SirensCeol and Aloma Steele. For years, his music has seamlessly blended industrial, metal and orchestral elements into modern EDM, and he’s become a figurehead for a shadowy genre all his own.
On Halloween in 2016, Kaelar released his noteworthy My Prayers Have Become Ghosts EP. The seven-track body of work fully encompassed his dark style with components of ambient, baroque, and progressive metal.
“I still consider My Prayers to be my best work,” Kaelar says. “It’s a very artistic and accurate representation of what Varien means to me. I got to explore all the roots.”
Though riding the high of My Prayers in 2016, the following year would prove to be full of hardship for Kaelar. Both of his parents became ill, and the nine-year relationship he was in “started to fall apart at the seams.” With these factors on top of a grueling producing schedule, Kaelar sunk into a deep hole of depression and anxiety, overcome by elements in his life he felt he had no control over. Wanting to take a step back and clear his mind, he deleted his social media accounts and disappeared from the internet scene entirely. After six years of making music as a full-time job without a break, he took 2017 to take care of himself mentally and emotionally — reemerging at the start of this year ready to get back on the horse.
He returned in February 2018 with “Blood Hunter” and has since released a variety of singles and the title track to his latest endeavor: the Death Asked A Question EP. Where My Prayers marked the end of “Varien 1.0,” this year’s releases have been all about part two of Kaelar’s journey as an artist.
“I’ve been staying positive this year and working harder than I’ve ever worked before,” Kaelar says. “That’s led to lots of days and weeks in this year where I have had a lot of struggles with depression and bouts of panic and anxiety, though… and even small flirtations with self harm.”
In early September, Kaelar released a beautifully haunting track called “Oh, Sparrow…” and was open with his fans about the story behind it. “I was sitting in my car and had that depressive, thousand-yard stare,” he recalls. “I had planned to go home that night and take some [Oxycontin] and go back to old addictive, escapist habits. Instead, I made a track and played around with an idea. I woke up the next day feeling better.”
He calls this year’s re-acclimation to the music scene a “crawl,” but says he’s in a “much better place” now. “I’ve definitely found out I’m a lot stronger than I think I am,” he says.
“The main thing that I preach and practice often is to never forsake your future self and own the consequences of your actions,” he says. “I’m working really hard now so my future self can be happy and thank my past self. A lot of great opportunities have come my way, and it’s starting to feel like people believe me when I say I’m here.”
And here he is.
The new Varien EP, Death Asked A Question, is out October 26 via Most Addictive and is premiering here a day early on Dancing Astronaut. Fans old and new will find differences between this body of work and My Ghosts, as Kaelar seeks to explore things that “aren’t quite so kosher or as ‘Varien’ as people would think.”
“In my entire discography spanning back to 2011 as Varien, there’s always a sense of very deliberate storytelling. This EP is nothing like that. It’s a refraction. In the same way a mirror might bounce light, I’m bouncing the emotions of this year and last year into music format. It’s the most personal experience. It’s very raw. It’s very vulnerable.”
Buy Death Asked A Question here.